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Torah Tidbits with Rabbi Peretz Laine

Rabbi Peretz Laine, Judaic Studies Teacher

Beware of Good Deeds!

Eisav is compared to a pig. The reason because like a pig that likes to flaunt his Kosher sign (split hooves) as if to proclaim, "Hey look at me I’m kosher" (although as we all know a pig is most certainly not kosher for he lacks the second sign – chewing his cud), so too Eisav would try to conceal his evil nature and would even do good deeds in an effort to proclaim his righteousness. Thus Eisav, a man guilty of the three cardinal sins, would approach his father with obscure Halachic questions for example, the method of tithing salt and straw. This was Eisav’s attempt to convince Yitzchak of his piety.

This idea of his two-faced personality is especially highlighted in the story of Eisav’s marriage to his third wife Machalat, the daughter of Yishmael and granddaughter of Avraham Avinu.

The first two women that Eisav married were Canaanites and of low character. While in contrast, Machalat was a virtuous woman.

Surprisingly however, regarding Eisav's marriage to Machalat, Rashi comments that Eisav added a wickedness to his previous wickedness, for he did not divorce his first two wives. The question becomes why marrying a righteous woman added a wickedness to his previous wickedness of marrying two women of low character, and furthermore was he not allowed to have more than two wives?

The answer is because Eisav's previous wickedness was not merely marrying two women of low character, rather it was his deceitfulness; he married these women when he was forty years of age in an effort to compare himself to his father Yitzchak, who also married at the age of forty. Eisav was nothing like his father, and to say that he was not celibate before these marriages would be putting it mildly. His commitment to these marriages was solely to proclaim an identity with his saintly father and to seem as if he were following in his father’s footsteps, a gross practice of deception.

When reading that Eisav, upon recognizing that Yitzchak was displeased with Canaanite women therefore traveled to the land of Yishmael and married Avraham Avinu’s own granddaughter Machalat, who was a virtuous woman, the reader may then think that Eisav is turning over a leaf in his actions. Thus, Rashi comments that one should not be fooled by this good deed of marrying a righteous woman, rather Eisav was merely perfecting his art of deceit. Rashi points to Eisav’s obvious practice of deceit from the fact that Eisav did not divorce his two Canaanite wives.

There is a powerful lesson to be learned from this Rashi. We are currently in Golut Edom, imposed upon us by the descendants of Eisav. So great is the darkness of this Galut Edom - Eisav, that sometimes we can be tricked into thinking good deeds are committed when in fact these deeds are but a promotion of wickedness. We must be extremely vigilant and diligent and probe our actions to ensure that they are sincere and not just a justification and a cover-up for an unholy agenda.

Furthermore, our job in this Galut is to confront this evil, expose it and reveal a concealed good that lies within. That concealed good was unfortunately debased into promoting wickedness. It is self-justification which is a sign that the person inherently wants to be pious, otherwise he wouldn't even bother trying to justify his evil ways and make himself look "kosher”. The mere fact that one bothers to disguise his evil deeds is an indication of the concealed good that exists within that person.

Indeed, this is why when Moshiach comes, the pig will be kosher. The hidden good that was distorted to fuel evil and deceitfulness will be revealed in its true essence – goodness. When Moshiach comes evil will be obliterated, the exterior causes that pervert goodness into evil will collapse, and goodness will be expressed in its true form - true goodness.

Rabbi Peretz Laine
Judaic Studies Teacher

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